NGO to state: Cut a deal with Zaken to take down Olmert

Group requests prosecution cut plea bargain with Olmert's former aide to up chances of convicting former PM in Holyland trial.

Shula Zaken 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Shula Zaken 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
The Movement for the Quality of Government in Israel on Sunday sent a letter to State Attorney Shai Nitzan requesting that the prosecution cut a plea bargain with Shula Zaken in order to improve the chances of convicting former prime minister Ehud Olmert in the Holyland trial.
The NGO said that it is important to reveal her testimony to the public.
The movement explained that it sent its letter to Nitzan and to the prosecution’s Financial Crime Division director Liat Ben-Ari Shooki in light of the ongoing negotiations between the prosecution and Zaken, Olmert’s top aide for decades.
The Holyland trial involves Olmert, Zaken, and 14 other prominent public servants and business persons all accused of paying or receiving bribes to overcome legal and zoning obstacles to the huge Holyland real estate project in south Jerusalem.
Olmert has denied all allegations and has blasted the state as being desperate for a plea bargain with Zaken this late in the case – a case which has been tried and is essentially just waiting for a verdict.
The Jerusalem Post has learned that Zaken wants to cut a deal with the prosecution, but that a deal is still very uncertain on two grounds.
First, it is unclear whether Zaken’s testimony and evidence could really substantially impact the trial. Second, there appear to be disagreements between Zaken and the prosecution as to whether a deal would involve merely reducing her jail time or no jail time at all.
Reports of a potential deal have also included the possibility of her testifying against Olmert in the Jerusalem corruption trial, for which he was already mostly acquitted in July 2012.
Procedurally, while it is not impossible for Zaken to turn against Olmert in either the Holyland or Jerusalem corruption trials, doing so in either case is fraught with obstacles, since the Jerusalem trial has technically ended and in the Holyland trial Zaken concluded her testimony and the state concluded its case.
The NGO explained that it believes revealing Zaken’s testimony could be crucial to the general fight against public corruption in the country.
The Post questioned why the movement was pushing for the state to cut a deal with Zaken, whereas in the case of former police commander Menashe Arbiv and Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto, it had vigorously opposed cutting a deal with Pinto to testify against Arbiv.
A spokesman for the NGO said that, as central a character as Arbiv was in the Arbiv-Pinto case, it viewed Pinto as the central character and Arbiv as less important.
In contrast, in the case of Olmert, it said that clearly Zaken was the lesser offender while Olmert was the chief suspect.
Reports surfaced at the end of last week that Zaken was reconsidering her multiple rejections years ago of the state’s offers of a plea bargain to turn state’s witness against Olmert.
Reportedly, Zaken is angry at how Olmert and his lawyers treated her near the end of the Holyland trial and in television interviews.